The news that unseen letters by Jackie Kennedy are to be auctioned has a "groundhog day" quality. Three years ago Sheppard's Irish auction house in Co Laois was asked by the former Dublin seminary All Hallows to sell correspondence she had sent to an elderly Irish priest Fr Joseph Leonard. However, the Vincentian Order, of which Fr Leonard had been a member, intervened to stop the sale and returned the letters to the Kennedy family in the United States. Before the auction was cancelled, extracts from the letters were published exclusively by The Irish Times and they shed new light on Jackie's early life, marriage to John F Kennedy and the aftermath of his assassination in 1963.
Now Bonhams auction house in London is to sell unpublished “heartfelt personal letters from Jackie Kennedy to David Ormsby Gore (the Fifth Lord Harlech), Britain’s ambassador in the USA during the Kennedy presidency” in London on Wednesday (March 29th) with a top estimate of £150,000 (€173,000).
They reveal, for the first time, that Ormsby Gore proposed marriage to Jackie Kennedy, why she turned him down, and why, shortly afterwards, she married Aristotle Onassis, the Greek shipping tycoon.
at Bonhams: “For decades biographers have speculated on the precise relationship between Jackie Kennedy and David Ormsby Gore. These letters now show without doubt how close they came to marriage, and why Jackie decided to marry Onassis instead. The correspondence has been sitting in two official red government despatch boxes for more than 40 years. The keys were nowhere to be found and in the end we had to call a locksmith to slice through the locks. It was one of those astonishing moments when you can’t quite believe what you’re seeing.”
Among the correspondence being sold are two items that Kennedy posted to Ormsby Gore while she was holidaying in Woodstown, Co Waterford, in the summer of 1967. Bonhams said “she wrote these letters of friendship and support from Woodstown House just weeks after the death of David Ormsby Gore’s wife Sissie. Jackie clearly felt happy in Ireland and perhaps saw it as a place of peace and privacy where she could holiday with the children safely away from the glare of publicity.”
Although Bonhams has not published the full contents, in one card, postmarked Port Lairge [Waterford] at 7.30pm on June 20th, 1967, and addressed to
, Wood Hill, Oswestry, Shropshire, England, Jackie wrote apparently inviting him to visit, saying “I will meet you at Shannon…. there is plenty of room for you” .
Further letters reveal that in February 1968, Ormsby Gore proposed marriage to Jackie, but she rejected him and married Onassis eight months later.